Educational computer game sweetens the mood for studying economics
KENNESAW, Ga. (Jun 13, 2016) — Given the challenge to teach fifth-graders about economics, two Kennesaw State Computer Game Design and Development students let youngsters take the lead.
Drew Savas and Michael Williams needed to develop an educational computer game as part of their Serious and Educational Game Design course during the spring semester. Though not the first time building a computer game, it is the first time they have worked with elementary-aged students.
“We needed to create a cool game that incorporates STEM and teaches economics and business, according to the educational curriculum standards of the school district,” Williams said. “We treated the kids like our clients, and we worked their ideas into our design.”
The duo worked with six fifth-graders in Robert Pinto’s class at the Marietta Center for Advanced Academics in the Marietta City School District.
The fifth-graders were asked to draw their ideas on paper, which gave the pair inspiration for the “Lemonade Stand” game, which teaches basic economic concepts, such as supply, inventory, cost and pricing. Each week, the duo visited the classroom, bringing back sections of the prototype for the students to test.
By sharing the inner workings of the game with the class from week to week, the pair taught the students programming basics, and the students were able to influence the game throughout its development.
“Our elementary students learned that designing a video game is a collaborative effort with many different skill sets, such as graphic design, coding, and narrative writing,” Pinto said, explaining that the game taught students STEM concepts as well as reinforced economic and historical standards required by the school district.
“Students could often be heard talking about the opportunity costs of purchasing certain items and how that affected the amount of money that was gained,” he added. “This game can also be used with future students and the teacher can introduce the concepts using the games, essentially gamifying the educational standard.”
The fifth-graders’ artwork illustrated the game, and their voices were used as audio for the game’s soundtrack, but the KSU pair’s ultimate test of whether their game was successful depended on whether the students actually wanted to play it. Pinto said the students were excited to play the games they helped to create.
“We knew we needed to hide the educational standards within the context of the game, so they wouldn’t realize they were learning while playing,” said Williams, who worked on the game’s creative development. “Our idea was to portray a storyline, tying that to the mechanics of the game with what we wanted to accomplish.”
Savas and Williams were surprised at how many of the fifth-graders had daily access to technology with personal devices, but they were also impressed with how engaged the students were in helping create the game.
“It was great that one of the kids now wants to become a game developer because of doing this project with us,” Savas said. “I thought I’d sign up for a college course and do a project, but I never thought we would be responsible for meeting with a school teacher and the class.”
The pair agreed that spending time with their clients was beneficial in creating a well-liked game. Savas and Williams will spend the summer refining their educational game and plan to submit it for national competition later this year.
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.